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Friday, October 26, 2007


We have had a lot of reporting lately on the prediction that the UK's population will reach 71 million by 2031. I am not that worried by pure numbers - I believe we could build enough houses & other infrastructure if the will was there & that on balance they don't cost the country much more than they contribute financially. Indeed if they were all going to be physics PhDs I would welcome them with open arms.

Nonetheless I am worried about the cultural effects of a vast amount of immigration - I think Britain is more than just a geographical expression. Thus I have decided to look into the growth figures in a little more detail

The population growth rates for Britain are:

Population growth rate: 0.275% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 10.67 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 10.09 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.17 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)

which would be 130,000 out of a population of 60 million which is actually considerably less than the next figures.
However net migration conceals the true immigration rate since what it measures is the difference between the immigration rate & the emigration rate. So what is Britain's emigration rate. Well

The latest official figures (2005) show net immigration to the UK of 185,000 (565,000 immigrants and 380,000 emigrants) Taking births & deaths, which are in remarkable balance 7 in fact would probably be negative for native citizens since migrants naturally enough tend to be in their childbearing years we get a net immigration by 2031 of [24 x 565,ooo] 13.56 million & a net emigration of (380,000 X 24] 9.1 million. This is not the 71 million being predicted it is 66 million, which suggests the officials who predicted 71 million are assuming about another 200,000 immigrants a year either as an increase or not accounted for in official figures.

Our present population of 61 million divides as of 2001, 13.1% (5.2% white, 7.9% non-white[36] ) of the UK population identified themselves as an ethnic minority. which gives us 53 million not considering themselves an ethnic minority & 8 million who do (lets be fair - a number of the white part of that must be Scots & Welsh being argumentative). Nonetheless this would mean mean that if we get to 71 million by 2031 people in Britain who are immigrants & ethnic minorities should be (8 + 13.56 + 5 millions) 26 1/2 million out of a population of 71 & 43 1/2 consider themselves primarily British.

This is a very rough & ready calculation on figures which seem to contradict each other & take no account of compound growth, nor of the possibility that a immigrants may well make up a fair proportion of emigrants, or, on the other hand that migrants both ways tend to be young & therefore have more children (I won't even start on the assumption that 3rd world immigrants tend to have more children). What this means is the 24 years from now nearly 40% of the population will be ethnic minorities.

Remember also that we have an aging population - for the first time now having more pensioners than children. It therefore seems quite likely that in merely 24 years the majority of those under 60 will consider themselves ethnic minorities.

I note the same wikipedia source says 40.1% of London's population is already immigrant. Kosovo anybody?

Monday, October 22, 2007


I promised an excerpt from Yes Minister, a series of documentaries on how the British governmental system, with most of the names changed & disguised as a situation comedy. Scripts subsequently republished in book form.


Stage one: The public interest
1) You hint at security considerations.
2) You point out that the report could be used to put unwelcome pressure on government because it might be misinterpreted. [Of course, anything might be misinterpreted. The Sermon on the Mount might be misinterpreted. Indeed, Sir Humphrey Appleby would almost certainly have argued that, had the Sermon on the Mount been a government report, it should certainly not have been published on the grounds that it was a thoroughly irresponsible document: the sub-paragraph suggesting that the meek will inherit the earth could, for instance, do irreparable damage to the defence budget -- Ed.]
3) You then say that it is better to wait for the results of a wider and more detailed survey over a longer time-scale.
4) If there is no such survey being carried out, so much the better. You commission one, which gives you even more time to play with.

Stage two: Discredit the evidence that you are not publishing
This is, of course, much easier than discrediting evidence that you do publish. You do it indirectly, by press leaks. You say:
(a) that it leaves important questions unanswered
(b) that much of the evidence is inconclusive
(c) that the figures are open to other interpretations
(d) that certain findings are contradictory
(e) that some of the main conclusions have been questioned

Points (a) to (d) are bound to be true. In fact, all of these criticisms can be made of a report without even reading it. There are, for instance, always some questions unanswered -- such as the ones they haven't asked. As regards (e), if some of the main conclusions have not been questioned, question them! Then they have.

Stage three: Undermine the recommendations
This is easily done, with an assortment of government phrases:
(a) 'not really a basis for long-term decisions...'
(b) 'not sufficient information on which to base a valid assessment...'
(c) 'no reason for any fundamental rethink of existing policy...'
(d) 'broadly speaking, it endorses current practice...'

These phrases give comfort to people who have not read the report and who don't want change -- i.e. almost everybody.

Stage four: If stage three still leaves doubts, then Discredit The Man Who Produced the Report
This must be done OFF THE RECORD. You explain that:
(a) he is harbouring a grudge against the government
(b) he is a publicity seeker
(c) he's trying to get his knighthood
(d) he is trying to get his chair
(e) he is trying to get his Vice-Chancellorship
(f) he used to be a consultant to a multinational company or
(g) he wants to be a consultant to a multinational company (The Complete Yes Minister, pp. 257-9)

Other pearls of official wisdom from the programme here

Sunday, October 21, 2007


On a previous post I commented on the option of spending £20 million on a monorail connection between Glasgow Airport & Paisley rail station rather than £200 million on a new full scale railway link to Glasgow Central. Under the previous transport minister Nicol Stephen, now Scottish Lib Dem leader I got what turned out to be a brush off from several levels down saying that they couldn't consider such thing without a specific proposal which I would have to produce. When I passed that on to Britain's leading monorail company ULtra & they offered such a proposal I got a reply from one rank further up saying that they hadn't actually meant the bit about being interested in a proposal & would only ever consider such a thing if it had been presented by one of the 2 parties in government. Strangely enough the Lib Dem Conference had indeed recently passed a motion calling for consideration of monorails (presented by my then constituency) but clearly neither Nicol, nor anybody else in the leadership, pays any attention whatsoever to what the legally sovereign but in practice toothless conference decides.

When the SNP came to power I tried again & to absolutely no surprise got the same result , though more courteously & bearing the signature of the project manager. Here is the substantial part of it with some comments:

"Proposals for a monorail link to Glasgow airport have been previously considered .....

The Committee noted that such a scheme was not so clearly superior (1) to GARL that the Bill should not progress. Fundamentally, it was not clear to the Committee that full account had been taken of the myriad economic, planning & legal considerations that would be required for such a scheme to succeed (2). Nor was sufficiently detailed evidence presented on likely patronage figures, the speed of the journey time, or how this alternative would take account of wider policy issues such as improving the rail network (3). in addition, a monorail scheme to Paisley Gilmour Street would not provide interconnections with Gourock & Wemyss Bay services (4).

Therefore it was concluded that a monorail to Paisley Gilmour Street would not offer sufficient wider strategic benefits (5) & was not an appropriate way forward for the rail link.

Works, in advance of the main construction contracts for the Glasgow Airport Rail Link, have commenced in respect of upgrading off site football pitches to mitigate the impact the link will have on the playing fields at Paisley St James (6).

The Scottish Executive supports the GARL as promoted by Strathclyde partnership for Transport which has been endorsed by the Scottish Parliament (7) & therefore has no plans at this time to consider any alternative proposals.

I appreciate that this is not the response for which you would have hoped but I hope the information I have provided is helpful."

1) "not so superior" is pretty much an admission that it is somewhat superior. Since the original review of the railway plan acknowledged that it made absolutely no economic sense & that even if it were to cost half the projected amount it would still not be a project that real, as opposed to government, investors would consider investing in this is pretty irrefutable.

2) I am going to post the list of government excuses for rubbishing any proposal from the magnificent TV series Yes Minister. Basically they boil down to "there are unanswered questions about the proposal" , since it is always possible to come up with questions which have not been answered, or indeed asked. This objection fits very neatly into the Yes minister groove.

3) As indeed does this. Note that the government HAVE ascertained traffic figures for the rail option (very disappointing ones) so to say that they have not ascertained figures for any alternative is a bit of a give away.

4) Balderdash. The rail line to Gourock & Wemyss Bay runs through Paisley Gilmour St so a monorail to there does indeed link. There has recently been some discussion on whether the subsidy to the rather small Wemyss Bay station amounts to £50 per ticket (counting only those passengers connecting to the ferry which is the ostensible justification for the subsidy) or a mere £10 per ticket counting everybody who gets off there. Call me cynical if you wish but I suspect the "likely patronage figures" for airline passengers going on to Wemyss Bay by rail would come to some dozens annually which would not reinforce the economic case for spending £200 million on the project.

5) Again this is specific nonsense. One of the advantages of the monorail link, beyond cost, is that Gilmour St is on the line to Prestwick Airport. There are already plenty of trains on that line & thus such a link would enable the 2 airports to work together (Glasgow Prestwick has longer runways & more capacity for expansion & runway lengthening & is thus better suited for long distance flights) & that together the 2 airports could have many of the advantages of a hub airport. If that is not a "wider strategic benefit" there ain't no such animal.

6) Decisionmakers are naturally keen to reduce the period between when it is to early to publicly discuss options & when work has started & it is thus too late for public input. In fact the work mentioned as having started here, of upgrading a football field, is only tangentially connected to actually building a railway, can be considered part of the council's sports budget & anyway must be a minuscule fraction of the project cost.

7) This is the real reason - SPT is a Glasgow Labour fiefdom, the SNP do not have a majority in the Scottish Parliament, indeed they have found it impossible to overturn the other 3 parties commitment to the pork barrel of £600 million devoted to 1 tramline in Edinburgh. Standing up for economic sanity would be a hard battle & one which they might well not win. One the other hand they certainly won't win if they don't try. On the 3rd hand the fact that the other parties combined to force through the Edinburgh tramline, when only the most blinkered vested interests don't accept what a waste it is, has coincided, I suspect not coincidentally, with the continuing rise in SNP popularity & disenchantment with the old parties.

There can be defeats in a good cause but there are no defeats in a popular cause when you are an elected politician. The SNP could say there should be a public debate on whether it would be better to spend £20 million than £200 million on a link, already acknowledged as not making economic sense at £200 million, This would not make it worse & in 1 major way improve it. There would be a wailing & gnashing of teeth among Labour vested interests (which currently includes the Lib Dem Party) but not, I think, among the electorate.

If, as stated, the main problem with the Not Invented Here solution of a monorail is merely that there has not been as much investigation into the "myriad economic, planning & legal" requirements as was done with the favoured case the solution must be obvious. For example if the government do not have detailed information about the "journey times" for a monorail covering approximately 1 mile I have little doubt that the manufacturers would be quite able to give a figure - if asked.

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